Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stride Videos

I'm running 5.3 mph at 0% incline with a heel-toe stride.  After about 80 seconds, my left shin was flaring up again.  I thought my breathing would be the big limitation.  Instead, I have an uncoorperative left leg.  Based on counting several times, I estimate 76 strides per minute, where according to Chi Running it should be 85 to 90.

Here, I am landing on the balls of my feet.  I speed it up to 5.3 mph, then 6.5, and then 7.6.  My shins don't bother me.  After I get her slowed down to 3.3 I elect to ride off the end.  It didn't go as gracefully as planned and I am glad the basement is carpeted.


Confession #1:  Weight

I have had several comments regarding weight, and it turns out I have not been sufficiently scientific.  So today I weighed with and without clothes and learned that the clothing amounts to 4.5 pounds.  For my Level Zero blog entry, I had on a complete outfit including shoes, the scale said 214, and I guessed 212.  That was a horrible, unnecessary guess and my geek character has been severly reprimanded.  The blog has been corrected.

My geek character has also been seriously reprimanded for not taking into account gravitational anomalies: the earth isn't truly spherical or uniform in density.  Fortunately, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), conducted by NASA and the German Aerospace Center, produced a map:

Luckily, there isn't much gravitational anomaly on USA's Eastern seaboard.  The largest souce of error is certainly in my cheap, department store scale.  My athletic character, as it moves up levels, will focus on running-related bling, so I confess an on-going uncertainty in the weights and measures category.

Confession #2: Chi

My first exposure to things Eastern was probably a few days in 6th grade social studies class and watching Kung Fu.  I confess that I'm not going to be very accomodating of any mystical theorizing - Eastern or Western.  I'm just a chubby guy trying to find a stride and cadence that is less jarring and exhausting!  That being said, there are a lot of good things in my Chi Running book to work on.  More on this later.

"The perfect stride?  Find it you should!"

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Week 2 Day 1

This week's routine calls for a five-minute warmup walk; 20 minutes of alternating 90 second jogs and 2 minute walks; and ending with a five-minute cooldown walk.

To get extra psyched up for this workout, Max and I played some classic motivational hits on Guitar Hero.

I wiggled at 3.3 mph and jiggled at 5.3 mph.  At the end of the jogs, my heart rate was around 166 except for the next to last one where it was 180.  I set the incline from 1% to 0% for the last jog and I peaked at 172.  My left shin still isn't quite right, but I could manage it.  It was a tougher workout, but I'll be able to shovel snow later.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Level One

~ Athletic Character Statistics ~

Age: 44
Weight: 204.5
Cholesterol: Yes
Pulse: Variable, but less scary
Gear: Newbie+

In role playing games, one moves up levels very rapidly at the beginning - even with modest accomplishments.  And with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of integers, I can't find much fault in that.

In virtue of attaining this status, I'm entitled to acquire some running-related bling.  I chose a book recommended by the good folks at C25K Forums called Chi Running.  It can be found here.  I bought the Kindle edition, and if I explained how dearly I loved my Kindle, it would take a different blog.

Conveniently, a celebration had been planned well in advance.  So, Tami and I arranged for a babysitter and we had a night out on the town.  There were about twelve hundred people at this formal event.  I was the only guy whose tuxedo had tails.  It's ashame that those other six hundred men were so deplorably out of fashion.  And, seeing that I'm the alpha male yet again, I'm forced to move my high-powered manager character up to level twelve.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Week 1 Day 3

Today, my high-powered manager character hogged the day: 3 hours driving; 3 hours at an airport; 3 hours flying; 3 hours in a meeting; and an hour on the BlackBerry around lunch.  So my workout didn't happen until about 9:30.  But, I wasn't about to put it off.  (The W1D3 routine is the same as the last two routines.)

I crushed it!  This is how I thought W1D1 was going to go, but better late than never.  I was in a much more experimental frame of mind today - I only varied my speed a little bit, but I measured my heart rate often and played with stride.  The only problem I had was my left shin never seemed to get completely happy.  I remember that feeling well from when I was a boy in middle school (and I was skinny then, so I'm not sure what to blame here).

Today I had the incline at one percent the entire time.  I wiggled at 3.3 mph and I jiggled at 5.3 mph except on jog 6 (where I did 6.0 mph) and jog 8 (where I did 5.7 mph).

Most of my experimentation was with stride.  Since my quads got their wake-up call, I have a keen sense of how much work they are doing.  And here is what I've figured out:

If I do a fast foot speed, I can pretty much do a (possibly silly looking) heel-toe sort of thing where I land flat-footed and my quads don't seem to be doing much of anything.  Every time a foot hits the treadmill, I can feel my ankles, shins, and mid-section excess at what I'd call a medium level.

If I do a long stride, my heels hit first, and I feel my quads doing a whole bunch of work.  Every time one of my T. Rex legs makes contact with the treadmill, I feel maximal shock to structural and excess components. (Sorry, looks like my geek character is peeking out - been repressed too long today.)

Then I did a stride where I land on the balls of my feet.  I immediately fell in love with this stride, because it took almost all the shock away.  It felt like I was floating along just dipping a toe down here and there to stay aloft, kind of like rowing.  And, as out of shape as I am, when I jogged this way my body was saying: "You've found the gear, now hit the gas pedal!"  If my left shin had felt as good as the right; and if I could figure out how to breathe in and out at the same time; I sure would have gone significantly faster.

On the heart rate side, I was at 117 after the warm-up walk.
After run 1: 142   After walk 1: 128
After run 2: 148   After walk 2: 135
After run 3: 155   After walk 3: 140
Basically a saw-tooth drawn on a ramp.  I hit 172 after the 6.0 mph jiggle, which was the highest.

I'm going to have a lot of questions on this stride business.  But it's late now, so I'm calling it a night.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Body Mass Index (BMI)

A few years back, I used to walk 4 mph for an hour most days of the week and eat right.  I kinda fell off the wagon when I went back to school for an MBA, and I've been slow to get back into a better lifestyle.  Accordingly, my BMI has suffered.  BMI is calculated with the formula below, and if you're not a kid or elderly, it's a decent measure.  More details can be found here.

I found that a decent BMI for my weight leads to the conclusion that I should be 6'6".  Evidently I need to grow eight inches in height to justify my weight.  I didn't find any non-invasive procedure to effect this heightening - not even Human Growth Hormone does that, as best as I could figure.  An invasive procedure that could be done is called Distraction Osteogenesis:
Distraction osteogenesis is a surgical process used to … lengthen the long bones of the body. A corticotomy is used to fracture the bone into two segments, and the two bone ends of the bone are gradually pulled apart during the distraction phase, allowing new bone to form in the gap. When the desired or possible length is reached, a consolidation phase follows in which the bone is allowed to keep healing. Distraction osteogenesis has the benefit of simultaneously increasing bone length and the volume of surrounding soft tissues.
Yeah, I'll pass on that.  I'm convinced my tendons, ligaments, and other gristle wouldn't keep up even if the bones could.  Besides, I enjoy being 5'10" because I can fit into just about any roadster.

So, I determined a good BMI for my present height and concluded that I should lose 38 pounds.  This running stuff should help.  Beyond that I need to eat a little smarter on the weekends and a little less on the weekdays.  My wife, Tami, is a superb cook and makes healthy meals.  Tonight it was burgers without buns, green beans, and sweet potato slices.

You might notice an additional grill in the background.  Tami caught that one on fire so bad and for so long, we thought the house was in jeopardy.  We're waiting to give it a decent burial.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Week 1 Day 2

My drumsticks were a bit tender this time, but I made it through more comfortably than last time.  (W1D2 and W1D1 are the same routine.)  I will admit that I had a few doubts yesterday but I got advice and encouragement from a few folks that really made the difference:

     Don (C25K forums):  Don has more years and pounds than I do - and he's in Week 7!

W1D1 turned out to be a wake-up call and my quads wanted to hit the snooze button.  I asked folks if I was just too damn old and out of shape for this program.  With Don's example I could say "Hey, quads, there is no snooze button on a wake-up call!"  Thanks Don, and congratulations on your progress!!

Jon (co-worker):  Are you trying to get there - or get there fast?

I told Jon I was just trying to get there in an email, and he suggested that I follow my own advice.  I had a lot more fun - I wasn't trying to hit any specific number, I was just doing what I could do.  So, in the alternating walks/jogs (or wiggles/jiggles) I varied the pace.  I could always do 3 mph / 5 mph and sometimes I hit the 3.5/5.5 numbers.  My heart rate never even got in the 180s.  And the walking was relaxed enough so that the little burn in the fronts of my lower legs completely subsided before the next jog.  Remind me to never let my treadmill tell me what to do: I'm in charge here!  Thanks, Jon!!

Kristi (C25K Forums): "Stretch, man-boobs ... stretch!!!  :)"

Did anyone notice a little A-cup action in my last video?  Here, Kristi is suggesting that I try to touch my toes or something.  But I decided to interpret stretch to mean push the envelope. So in the last couple of intervals I kicked it up a notch and repeated her battle cry.  Thanks Kristi, and I'll get with you later about what I should do for stretching (properly interpreted).

This was a real work-out for me, and I can feel it.  I don't think I'll be bolting a snack tray to the treadmill any time soon, but I've conquered a few of the newbie jitters.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Now Feeling it in the Quads

Well, it's a good thing they give days off between exercises.  It's also nice to see the kids thinking about exercise.  Elaine (7) and Max (5) each went on the treadmill for half a mile under heavy supervision.  Elaine is interested in doing a 5K that our neighborhood association does in May.  She isn't sure if she wants to walk or run.  She got her ears pierced while I was shoe shopping yesterday.  I'm not sure what her default character is, but it's not being a geek.  Gonna have to watch that one.

I want to thank everyone - my family, friends, and those at C25K Forums for sharing their encouragement and advice.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Week 1 Day 1

This exercise routine begins with five minutes of brisk walking followed by twenty minutes of alternating one minute jogs / ninety second walks. It concludes with a five minute cooldown walk.

As you can see, I rounded out my newbie gear with bicycle pants and my finest heavy cotton running shirt. There is an emergency shut-off cord that attaches to the treadmill, but I wasn't sure how to attach it to me so I stuffed it in my pants - athletes don't think as hard as geeks. My wife took some pictures and made a video clip. After three of the running intervals, I asked my wife to leave the basement. I did the walking at 3.5 mph and the jogging (or jiggling) at 5.5 mph. My heart rate went into hummingbird territory. I could feel the exercise in my ankle and shin areas. Everything else except the breathing was hunky-dory.

It may be hard to see how profusely I perspired in the photograph above, but trust me: I was drenched! Letting the kids hit me with a water gun afterwards didn't make matters much worse. Max wanted a head shot, and Elaine targeted a bit southward.

Level Zero

~~ Athletic Character Statistics ~~

Age: 44 years
Weight: 209.5 pounds
Cholesterol: Yes
Pulse: Variable
Gear: Newbie

I have returned from my shopping and have made the required purchases, which I describe below.

I obtained new glasses. You may wonder what that has to do with running, so let me explain. The wire frame glasses I have worn the last few years are for my geek (default) character. They fit closer to one side of my nose than the other, and that is by design. When I combine these glasses with phrases such as "Oh, that's just the Law of Cosines" my geek image is secured. For my athletic character, I chose some Nike glasses with a funky green color and their trademark swoosh. (Athletes have no fear of color or flair.) My daughter, Elaine, asked me how they could make me run faster. I don't have an answer to that question, all I know is that I practically had to go to NASA to get my coke-bottle prescription into these stylish new frames. I'm not sure I will wear these at work - I don't want to intimidate anyone.
I grabbed new foot gear. My tennis shoes were about six years old, and again, they are for my geek character. I nearly went with some sparkly gold Nike hi-tops, and Elaine was on my side, but my wife and the salesperson at Foot Action talked me into some Nike Airs.
Upon learning that I was transforming into an athlete, the salesperson also recommended PolySorb insoles for the shock that my feet would be experiencing. So, I bought those and some quarter-length socks.
Finally, I secured training. Even a zeroth level athlete needs a trainer, and I have selected Robert Ullrey's podcasts which accompany the Couch to 5K program. I chose this because it is free - I'm very tight with my money. In order to hear him, I purchased a green iPod nano (to match the glasses - athletes have more fashion sense than geeks), an armband, and ear buds guaranteed not to come loose.

In my present state, and as is common for level zero characters, I really have no business running around in public. Fortunately, we already have a sweet Landice treadmill. So, I am all set except my iPod is charging and that supposedly takes a few hours the first time. My first workout will therefore be postponed.

My New Character

It has been suggested that I undertake the Couch to 5K program, which is an exercise program that can be found at A person accepting this challenge would typically just put on some sweats and start running, but I don't find that to be sufficiently melodramatic.

I have much to do in terms of preparation, which includes this blog. Recognizing that my geek character and my high-powered manager character aren't up to the task, I need to create an athletic character with some new gear - but not too much - as new characters have to start at the beginning. Thus, I will pop out to a variety of shopping locales and return as a transformed, level zero athletic character.

Unfortunately, the stores aren't open yet so I'm returning to bed. But mark my words: before this day is out, I will complete the Week 1 Day 1 routine. As further evidence of my seriousness please feast on the story below from last night:

Wife: "Oh honey, I missed you so much during your two-week business trip. The kids are asleep. Won't you please come to bed?"

Me: "Do you mean come to bed ... or come to bed?"

Wife: "What do you think?"

Me: "Sorry, I am in training."

That's right folks - this is serious business. If you guys want to see how it's done, check back later after I wake up. Perhaps you can also become a super athlete.